[with]Drawing-Room Surveying the Uncertain, the Estranged, the Monstrous

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Yuman Zeon


This visual essay presents the design research project focusing on Gao Xingjian (b. 1940), who is a Chinese-born novelist, playwright, and painter in exile. He is also a Nobel laureate in literature (2000) for the universal validity, bitter insights, and linguistic ingenuity of his writings. This essay explores the under-researched architectural and spatial allegories of Gao’s literary and theatrical works by interpreting his acts of withdrawal in search of a new perspective for meaning making in a time of crisis and violence most notably marked by the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45) and the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966–76). First, this essay examines the traumatic process of Gao’s threefold withdrawal into the uncertain interior of the self. It then focuses on how such experiences of withdrawal have led to Gao’s post-exile play Between Life and Death (1991), and his literary invention of ‘fugitive pronouns’ to represent an interior that is unsettled, obscure, and vague. Finally, to explore the architectural potential of Gao’s play, the design research project [with]Drawing-Room translates the narrative of withdrawal into a spatial performance in three acts through methods of scanning, burning, and tracing. Engaging with notions of darkness and uncertainty through thinkers such as Giorgio Agamben and Francois Jullien, the essay argues against the light of certitude often uncritically associated with modern technology and a rationalistic mind set.


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How to Cite
Zeon, Yuman. 2023. “[with]Drawing-Room: Surveying the Uncertain, the Estranged, the Monstrous”. idea journal 20 (01):136–149. https://doi.org/10.37113/ij.v20i01.495.